Police officers given a voice on world stage for first time at International Labour Conference

For the first time in its 101-year history, police officers will be represented in their own right at the International Labour Conference (ILC) due to take place in June this year.

Apr 12, 2021
By Paul Jacques
108th session of the International Labour Conference held in 2019.

Calum Steele, general secretary of both the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) and the International Council of Police Representative Associations (ICPRA), said the significance of this “really cannot be understated”.

“The voice of police officers being heard at the biggest labour conference in the world for the first time ever is one hell of an achievement,” he added.

The ILC, often referred to as the Parliament of Labour, is the single most important event in the driving of international labour standards. It establishes conventions, recommendations and international treaties that are legally binding once ratified.

Among the topics to be discussed at this year’s conference, which is expected to be held ‘virtually’, are inequalities and the world of work, and the strategic objective of social protection.

ICPRA president Tom Stamatakis said confirmation that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had accepted its application to participate in the 109th ILC was the “first step in ensuring police officers are heard on the world stage”.

The ICPRA represents more than 1.5 million members across four continents speaking over 30 languages. UK and Ireland member organisations include the SPF, Police Federation of England and Wales, Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI), British Transport Police Federation, Garda Representative Association and Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.

Mr Stamatakis said: “The fact that police officers will now have a voice at the biggest and most significant labour conference on earth is genuinely overwhelming. For over 100 years police officers have not been heard at the ILC and this development changes that forever.

“We applaud the ILC’s governing body for recognising ICPRA. At a time where the world faces unprecedented challenges, from climate change, political instability, and of course a global pandemic, it has never seemed more important than now to ensure the voices of all workers can be heard.

“For too long there has been a lack of distinction between the workers who perform police work, and the work of policing. Police trade unions, federations, and associations have a lot to contribute to all work on international labour standards, and it is in our collective interests to ensure workers in all areas cooperate to respond to the challenges of tomorrow.

“Although this recognition represents the end of seven years of hard work within ICPRA, and with the ILO in order to ensure ICPRA was formally recognised as an international non-governmental organisation, it is in itself but the first step in ensuring the representatives of police officers are heard on the world stage.”

David Hamilton, chair of the SPF, said: “This is a significant development that I suspect will pass many by, but the opportunity to contribute and be heard on the ILO stage could impact positively on millions of police officers worldwide.”

The PFNI said the rights of its members “have always been paramount” and this news was a “significant step”.

Other ICPRA member organisations include the Police Federation of Australia, South African Police Union, Portuguese National Police Union (Sindicato National da Policia), New Zealand Police Association, Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union, Fraternal Order of Police, Canadian Police Association, European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP), the Danish Police Union (Politiforbundet), Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Kenya Police Union and Mozambican Police Association.

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